NEW DELHI, Jan 9: India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party said on Wednesday that war with Pakistan was not part of its election plank in the forthcoming polls due next month in some crucial states, including Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

The significant clarification came in separate remarks by two senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and it is being seen as yet another indication that the Indian government has pulled back considerably from its more adventurist stance of recent weeks.

On the contrary, there was talk, after a long time, about dialogue with Pakistan as the only way forward, although Wednesday’s formula spelt out by the Indian foreign ministry was delivered as part of New Delhi’s rejection of President Pervez Musharraf’s demand to settle the India-Pakistan dispute under the UN aegis.

Significantly on Wednesday China, a close ally of Islamabad, also invoked the spirit of bilateralism as the way ahead between India and Pakistan.

“War cannot be, will not be our election issue,” Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Rajnath Singh said in a TV interview. He was commenting on the likelihood of the war hysteria finding favour with the BJP as a major election plank. “We will no doubt focus the election issue on terrorism, that’s the real issue and that’s going to be important.”

Mr Singh’s remarks followed similarly softened comments by BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy, who until recently was threatening Pakistan with nuclear decimation, but seemed on Wednesday to have become more circumspect.

Asked in an online chat why India was not taking military action against Pakistan for recent terrorist attacks in Delhi, Mr Krishnamurthy said: “Taking military action against any country is a serious decision. It is done only after due consultations with the military leadership and the necessary preparations. If a matter can be settled through means other than war, those means must be first explored. India is doing just that at present. The diplomatic steps taken by India have all the signs of yielding results.”

Mr Krishnamurthy said the United States had clearly mounted pressure on Pakistan to crackdown on terrorism. “And China also has not given any indication that it wants to encourage terrorism. China also is bound by the resolution passed by the UN Security Council on terrorism,” he said.

While the head of India’s ruling party was swearing by a recent and obviously important Security Council resolution, New Delhi was equally busy rejecting another important resolution that has been collecting dust in the New York archives for 53 years. An external affairs ministry spokesperson, responding to Gen Musharraf’s call to resolve India-Pakistan ties through mediation by the United Nations, promptly rejected the offer.

“We have always said that the only way for India and Pakistan as far as the resolution of outstanding issues is concerned is through bilateral discussions and on the basis of the understandings enshrined in the Simla Agreement,” the spokesperson told reporters. “This is the only way, we believe, that matters can be resolved directly, bilaterally and through discussions between India and Pakistan without recourse to or intervention by any third party or international institution,” she said.

Her remarks may have been aimed at preempting another perception from gaining popularity, that the forthcoming visit to New Delhi by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji was in some way an effort by Beijing to mediate between India and Pakistan.

The Press Trust of India reporting from Beijing quoted senior officials too as ruling out such a possibility.

“I think the role that can be played by China together with the international community is to persuade the two sides to continue to exercise restraint. However, in the end, it is up to the two countries to find a peaceful solution,” PTI quoted the Director- General of the Asia Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Fu Ying, as saying.

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